Optional Practical Training for F-1 students

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is meant to give F-1 students practical experience in their major field of study, and students can apply for it either during their program of study or after graduation. OPT generally lasts up to 12 months.

Before you can participate in OPT, you'll need to get approval from US Citizenship and Immigration Services, which usually takes around 90-100 days, but processing times may vary. Students should plan ahead, attend a workshop in a timely manner, and apply as early as possible.

You do not need to have a job offer when you apply, but you are required to begin working on post-completion OPT within 90 days of the start date on your OPT EAD card in order to maintain valid F-1 status.

When classes are in session, pre-completion OPT can only be part-time, up to 20 hours per week. It can be full-time during the summer and other breaks.

Post-completion OPT is full-time (more than 20 hours per week). You can work with multiple organizations, as long as each position is directly related to your major field of study and cumulatively add up to at least 20 hours per week.

If you are considering an unpaid internship or position, you may do so during the regular post-completion OPT period, but you should get written verification that your position does not violate any local, state, and federal labor laws from an HR representative at your organization. Financial compensation is not the only indicator of employment.  

Getting started

Post-Completion OPT

Click the image to view the full PDF:

Post-Completion-OPT-Request-Checklist.png

 

Pre-Completion OPT

Click the image to view the full PDF:

Pre-Completion-OPT-Request-Checklist.png

Online Workshop

F-1 students must complete an OPT workshop prior to submitting an OPT request in ISSS Link. ISSS offers a new and improved pre-recorded online workshop that can be viewed at the student's convenience. 

The link below will require you to log in using your Emory NetID before connecting you to the online OPT workshop which includes a series of videos. Once you have watched all five videos, login to ISSS Link to complete the OPT Request e-form which includes the OPT quiz.

Online Workshop

Live Workshops (In-person or Zoom)

In addition to the online workshop, ISSS offers a live, interactive session (held in-person or via Zoom) with an international student advisor where you may asks questions. 

Important:  To comply with social distancing guidelines resulting from COVID-19, ISSS will temporarily suspend in-person OPT workshops and offer all live sessions via Zoom. We hope to resume in-person workshops as soon as the situation improves. 

To attend a live OPT workshop, sign up for one of the options below:

Eligibility

You can apply for OPT if:

  • You currently hold F-1 status
  • You have finished at least one academic year as a full-time student at a US institution
  • You have not participated in full-time CPT for 12 months or more at your degree level

If you re-enter the US using a new SEVIS record after your previous record was terminated, you need to complete another academic year of full-time study before you can apply for OPT.

How to apply

Below is an overview of the steps for applying for OPT. See OPT Frequently Asked Questions for additional details about these steps.
  1. Sign up for and participate in an OPT workshop.
  2. Prepare documents for your I-765 application.
    1. I-765 application draft - Guides for preparing the online and paper I-765 are on the OPT Frequently Asked Questions web page.
    2. Required documents - See the "Document Checklist" section below and OPT Frequently Asked Questions for a list of required documents and additional details.
  3. Complete the OPT Request e-form in ISSS Link.
    1. The OPT Request consists of 2 e-forms – the OPT Assessment and the OPT Request. Earn a minimum score of 80% on the OPT Assessment, and then complete the OPT Request.  
    2. ISSS processes complete OPT Requests within 5 business days.
    3. Post-completion OPT:
      1. The e-form prompts for the name and email of your departmental reviewer’s name and email address. This information will be provided in the e-form.
      2. Your departmental reviewer will receive an email with instructions to complete their portion of your OPT request.
      3. Your OPT request is considered complete after both the student and departmental reviewer portions of the e-form are submitted. 
    4. Pre-completion OPT: Your request is considered complete once your portion of the e-form is submitted. 
  4. Receive your new OPT I-20.
    1. ISSS will email your new OPT I-20 to you as a password protected PDF.
    2. Print, hand sign and date your new OPT I-20, and make a copy to include with your I-765 OPT application.
    3. 30 days - Ensure USCIS receives your I-765 OPT application within 30 days of the date your OPT recommendation was entered in SEVIS.
      1. USCIS rejects or denies I-765 OPT applications received more than 30 days after the date OPT was recommended in SEVIS and does not refund application fees.
      2. You may not be eligible to reapply if USCIS denies your OPT application.
  5. Submit your I-765 OPT application with OPT I-20 to USCIS either online or by mail.
    1. Do not submit both the online and paper I-765 applications. USCIS processing time for online and paper applications is the same.
    2. See OPT Frequently Asked Questions for details about submitting the online or paper I-765 application.
    3. Your I-765 OPT application submission must include a copy of your OPT I-20 and additional required documents. 
    4. 60 days - Post-completion OPT applications must be received by USCIS no later than 60 days after a student’s program completion date.
    5. 90 days - Post-completion OPT applications must be received by USCIS no earlier than 90 days before a student's program completion date.
  6. Receive your I-797 receipt notice and employment authorization document (EAD).
    1. Your documents will be mailed to the mailing address provided on your I-765 OPT application. If you used the ISSS office mailing address, ISSS will email you when your documents arrive at the office.
    2. I-797 Receipt Notice – Notices for applications submitted online are immediately available in your myUSCIS account. Hardcopy I-797 receipt notices typically arrives within 3–4 weeks.
    3. USCIS Online Account Access Notice – You will receive a hardcopy notice which lists your USCIS online account number if you submitted your I-765 online.
    4. Employment Authorization Document (EAD) – USCIS processing time is typically 90-100 days, but times can vary widely. Your employment can begin only after you receive your EAD card and on the approved OPT start date printed on your card.

PhD students

If you will finish your dissertation mid-semester, you may want to apply for post-completion OPT before you officially graduate. If you are interested in this option, please discuss your plans with your ISSS advisor 3–4 months ahead of time.

Document checklist

Below is an overview list of documents required for your I-765 OPT application. See OPT Frequently Asked Questions for additional details about required documents.

Online I-765 Document Checklist

Prepare digital files of the required documents listed below. Refer to the Online I-765 Guide for file format requirements.

  1. New OPT I-20 with OPT recommendation on page 2, hand signed and dated by you
  2. New US passport-style photo - photo requirements >>
  3. Most recent I-94
  4. Most recently issued passport ID page
  5. Any previous EAD cards (front and back)
  6. Previously issued CPT and OPT I-20s, if applicable
  7. Recommended but not required: All other previously issued I-20s including any issued by other institutions, if applicable

Paper I-765 Document Checklist

Document copies must be single-sided pages. Do not staple together any of your application documents.

  1. Original, typed I-765 form signed in blue pen. ISSS step-by-step I-765 instructions >>>
  2. Copy of new OPT I-20 with OPT recommendation on page 2, hand signed and dated by you
  3. Copies of previously issued CPT and/or OPT I-20s, if applicable
  4. Recommended but not required: Copies of all other previously issued I-20s including any issued by other institutions, if applicable
  5. Copy of any previous EAD cards (front and back)
  6. Copy of the passport ID, plus any extension pages
  7. Copy of your current visa (if you have one)
  8. Copy of your most recent I-94
  9. OPT fee paid by personal check, cashier's checks, money order or credit card. For the most up to date fee amount, visit the USCIS website (NOTE: Biometrics fee is not required)
  10. 2 passport-style photos – photo requirements >>
  11. Form G-1145 (optional, but recommended)

Reporting requirements

During post-completion OPT, you'll need to report:

  1. Any change to your non-immigrant status within 10 days by emailing isss@emory.edu
  2. Any change to your legal name within 10 days by emailing isss@emory.edu
  3. Change of your address within 10 days by logging in to ISSS Link and filling out the “Update Current OPT Employer e-form”
  4. Change of employer or work address, including end of employment, within 10 days by logging in to ISSS Link and filling out the “Update Current OPT Employer e-form”

Students without a valid Emory NetID and password can access ISSS Link to meet their reporting requirements using Limited Services. For instructions on accessing ISSS Link using Limited Services>>>

Extensions

STEM OPT extension

If you have a degree in a STEM field and you are currently in a period of post-completion OPT, you can apply for an extension. Learn more >>


Cap-gap extension

If you are on post-completion OPT and your employer has filed an H-1B petition on your behalf, a cap-gap extension would allow you to stay in the US during the gap between the end of OPT and the beginning of your H-1B status. Learn more >>